Anna’s Quest For Sourdough- by Anna Stankiewicz
My adventure with sourdough began unknowingly, around 30 years ago in Eastern Europe where I grew up. Then bread was simply bread. You had to queue for it in the bakery in the morning and carry it home, warm and heavy in your bag. You had it thickly sliced with dripping and slices of onion in the winter, or with butter and slices of tomato in the summer. For a special treat you had it with honey, from a huge jar. It was an uncomplicated, nutritious staple.
Systems changed, bakeries vanished, supermarkets sprouted-up everywhere. I travelled, moved around, and there was such a variety of food to experience. Bread came in many guises, so different and exciting, some good and others less so, but nothing ever came close to those loaves I remembered from my childhood. It was hopeless- I did not know what I was looking for.
Trying a slice of Hilary’s sourdough bread awoke all the memories stored somewhere deep in my taste buds- I had a name, I now knew what to search for. The quest for ‘sourdough’ was on! It continued through the alleys of expensive supermarkets and organic deli’s. It spread like wildfire through my family and friends who came to visit and swore to only ever eat sourdough.
Eventually, I grew braver and decided to tackle Hilary’s recipes for myself, entering the current phase of my adventure- a beginner home baker, I am kneading and burning the crusts. It is addictive, it is fascinating. But then the taste of the first successful loaf is unbeatable and seriously narrows your shopping options- from now on, you will only eat homemade bread. It is not only because you know all of the ingredients, or that you can have it still warm with butter dripping down your chin in your own kitchen. It is because making bread is a creative process of half science, half witchcraft; nursing the starter, mixing the dough, watching it grow in front of your eyes, crisping in the oven whilst you peer through the glass.
This goes for all of Hilary’s recipes. A truly professional chef with years of experience and yet with so much contagious curiosity and creativity, she treasures the freshest ingredients and seeks inspiration in the seasonality and in the culinary traditions of different regions. The ritual of preparation, the exuberance of flavours- these are the rules. The results are wonderful, lovingly prepared meals that make you and those around you full of the joys of eating.